On Sunday night, John Oliver dedicated the opening portion of his Emmy-winning HBO series, Last Week Tonight, to the Democratic National Convention—a star-studded four-day affair filled with the Bidens, Obamas, celebrity emcees, Billie Eilish, and Diplo DJing in front of a CGI White House.
Curiously, the 2020 DNC also featured a number of #NeverTrump Republicans voicing their opposition to the president, including Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCain; former New York Rep. Susan Molinari, who was the keynote speaker at the 1996 RNC; former Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the architects of the Iraq War; Meg Whitman, the billionaire ex-eBay exec turned Quibi CEO; and John Kasich, the anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment former governor of Ohio who lost to Trump in 2016.
“In terms of tone, the DNC spent the week steering hard toward the middle of the road, because while yes, there were brief appearances from stars like AOC and Stacey Abrams, a lot of time was given to Republicans like Meg Whitman, Colin Powell, and John Kasich, who delivered his remarks standing at a literal crossroads,” explained Oliver. “And it’s hard to convince progressive voters you’re a forward-looking party when your convention feels like a Zoom cast reunion—except the show is the 2008 RNC.”
Oliver also had some mild criticisms of Joe Biden’s DNC speech, which was delivered to near-universal acclaim—including praise from none other than Rush Limbaugh, who called it “flawless.”
“While he name-checked broad goals, like expanding childcare or ending racism, the speech was light on detail and heavy on lines like this,” offered Oliver, before throwing to Biden proclaiming, “Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency. Science. Democracy. They’re all on the ballot.”
“OK, now normally I’d point out that compassion and decency are not concrete policy agendas, but considering open authoritarianism is also on the ballot, sure, what the fuck. Adequate vs. evil, let’s go,” said Oliver.
The comedian closed things on a not-so-hopeful note.
“I really hope the DNC’s strategy this week of wooing undecided voters with the star power of John Kasich and Meg Whitman really pays off,” said Oliver, “because, if the Democrats just spent a week trying to appeal to conservatives who ultimately end up voting Republican, then this will have actually turned out to be a depressingly conventional convention.”